After the mild disappointment of Man of Steel and the major disappointment of Pacific Rim (relax, one man’s opinion), more and more Niell Blomkamp’s Elysium (trailer here) is looking like our last hope for a truly good sci-fi film this summer (it opens August 9th). Wired recently did a profile on the Johannesburg-raised filmmaker and it only strengthened that hope, if only because Blomkamp seems like a guy with playfully weird sensibilities, which was what I loved about District 9. Sharlto Copley whimpering while eating cat food? That was my jam. Sci-fi could use less cheese and more absurdity, if you ask me.
A few newsy bullet points from the profile:
- Blomkamp has written an 18-page treatment for District 10. …Yay? I loved District 9, but I’m not sure that one needs a sequel.
- He turned down the possibility of directing a Star Wars movie when it was broached by producer Simon Kinberg. Good man. I’m much more interested in sci-fi directors who aren’t interested in Star Wars. It means they’re willing to think beyond stuff they liked when they were 12, which is nice.
- At some point, he’ll be making Mild Oats, which he describes as “John Waters meets Jackass,” and which apparently involves puppets: “The crate houses a 3-foot-tall, photo-realistic silicone puppet rocking a mullet and jailhouse tattoos. The deranged redneck stands completely naked, revealing six nipples and a prodigious, uncircumcised penis. The character’s name, Marvin, is inked on said organ in gothic lettering.” Of course it’s uncircumcised, I’m not sure South Africans would even know what a circumcised penis looks like.
- Before that, he’s got Chappie, a $60-million sci-fi film starring Sharlto Copley as himself and Ninja and Yolandi Visser from Die Antwoord as themselves. “All Blomkamp will say is that the movie is about sentience. ‘If something is as smart as you, do you treat it differently if it isn’t a human?’ he says, adding that it’s an action comedy, essentially… but with heart?” Do I treat it differently if it isn’t human… hmm, that seems to depend largely on two questions: can I eat it, and can I f*ck it. Historically, I mean. Humans aren’t that complicated.
Which brings us to the blockquote referenced in the headline: that Blomkamp had originally planned to cast Ninja from Antwoord in the lead, and later Eminem.
While promoting District 9, Blomkamp expressed his intentions to do his next movie in the same manner—with a modest budget and no stars. In fact, he initially approached Ninja, of the outlandish South African rap-rave crew Die Antwoord, to play the lead in what would have been a much lower-budget version of Elysium. A South African countercultural icon, Ninja didn’t want his first screen role to be an American-accented character in such a high-profile film. (“It was a f*cked-up, difficult decision,” says the musician, who has a d9 inner-lip tattoo to prove his devotion to his favorite movie.) Blomkamp subsequently approached a bigger-name white rapper, Eminem, who was interested but only if the shoot took place in his hometown of Detroit.
“I’ll do it, but only if I don’t have to do an accent.” “I’ll do it, but only if we can shoot it near me house.” Yeah… I guess that’s why they’re rappers and not actors. Though to be fair, some actors do have similar demands. For instance, Vince Vaughn requires the shoot to take place somewhere he’s already vacationing and to have an easily walkable Chili’s.